[GW2] Four Map’s Metas, pt. 1

The Heart of Thorns expansion brought with it four new open world PvE maps. Each map has a “meta”, a map-wide goal, much like the core Dry Top and Silverwastes. Overall, there is good and bad. I hope that ArenaNet takes the time to smooth out the rougher issues, and I hope they learn from what works.

To just jump in, the overall issue I have is the player knowledge requirement of when a map starts. I have to remember that the Auric Basin boss occurs on the odd hour. I think Verdant Brink resets half an hour earlier with night then occurring an hour and twenty minutes later. No idea about Tangled Depths, which is not fun, and Dragon’s Stand does its own thing.

It was easy enough to learn one map, Dry Top, which reset on the hour, every hour. Silverwastes, like the new Dragon’s Stand, was map dependent; although, the latter is timed. Now there are a bunch of new maps with varied start times, and I feel that there needs to be something in-game, such as the map UI, that tells players the timed status of the map. Then armed with that knowledge, and knowledge of how long I can play, I can make pretty good decisions on what I want to do. Anyway, off to each map…

Verdant Brink Overview

This map is probably the best one of the bunch. It appears to have the most polished meta, and rightly so since all players entering Heart of Thorns will experience it. It has the best jump-in experience, and it has a really good map-wide meta for maps that are looking to get really organized.

On the even half-hour (for me, such as 0830 PST) the map completely resets to day. There are five areas each owing allegiance to an outpost. The goal for the first 1:20 hours is to build up each outpost. I have given a thorough tour of one, and they are all pretty similar in that regards. They each have a story and a conclusion that occurs before nightfall.

As the outpost events are completed the map-wide meta increases. Players are rewarded based on personal participation and the tier of the map meta. This can be seen by hovering the mouse over the minimap. The goal is to complete each outpost, which results in a tier 4 map completion. This is very reasonable for the time allotted.

Once the first 2/3 of the map’s two hours is up, nightfall occurs. For each outpost there is a handful of Pact bonfires available based on how far along the outpost got during the day. If each bonfire is defended through about 3 Mordrem attacks (4 is the best number of players, I’ve heard), the map meta tier goes up.

At the last 20 minutes of night, choppers descend to carry players up to the canopy of the map where 5 boss fights await, respective to each outpost area. The night map tier does not matter, but at least one bonfire for each outpost must have been protected to have a chopper land.

Verdant Brink Review

So why is this a good map? The main reason is because a player can drop in and help at any time and roughly anywhere. During daytime I help build outposts, and during nighttime I help defend. The final rewards, while better for organized maps, are still mostly dependent on my activity and at the boss fights finding a pocket of activity.

If there are only 20 active players at nighttime, we can at least rally around one boss to get it down. If we don’t down all 5 bosses we don’t really lose, we just don’t win the big ticket items.

The other great thing is that the amount of time it takes to complete the outposts roughly fills the first 1:20 hours of daytime. This morning I was on an exceptional map where we finished within the first hour. Yes, there would be 20 minutes of “down time”, which can be filled with adventures and helping players get map completion. However, it appears to be at least considered in the design, whereas Tangled Depths (map 3) usually finishes way, way ahead of time leaving too much time between the outpost buildup and the map meta event.

Finally, this map still benefits from coordination. The daytime map population benefits from splitting in to 5 groups to tackle each outpost. Most of the time I’ve seen the scaling works very well. A single player, for instance, can do all of the Jaka Itzel outpost with the exception of the final wyvern boss. However, at nighttime the best rewards are given to a map that can really split up between the 15-20 bonfires.

ArenaNet in their next land expansion needs more maps like this where a player can jump in anytime or stay for the whole course for the best rewards. They need maps where the map can win small, or win big. Unfortunately, this was the only map where complete failure does not regularly occur.

Auric Basin Overview

My favorite map thematically is Auric Basin. This map is just oozing with lore and history. It feels like we found this lost civilization surrounded by the fauna of the jungle. With all the lore nuggets and brilliant map design, I find it amazing to play there.

For the first majority of the map, Auric Basin works the same as Verdant Brink. There are four outposts, and each outpost has to be unlocked and then improved upon. The further along each outpost is advanced the better chance of beating the meta as each outpost provides a number of giant Exalted armors for players to don in the final fight.

In between the outpost upgrading time and the final fight is a fun contest-phase where players race or play mushroom soccer to win a gold Exalted armor slot. Each outpost gets a set number of Exalted armors regardless of the contest phase, but the winners don the gold ones which have twice the hit points of the usual silver ones. The silver ones respawn if the gold ones die.

The final fight occurs in the middle of the map where the entire population can converge. It is split between four sides, and it only take a minute or so for a player to run to another side through the side passages if another area needs help.

Each side has it’s own mechanic to destroy a shield on the Octovine and then DPS down the Octovine. One side has to glide through poisonous air to bomb the Octovine’s shield while another side has knockback Exalted bombs along the ground to hit the Octovine. It’s not that difficult, but it does require some level of map coordination.

The big part is that once one side of the Octovine is killed the map only has 2 minutes to kill the other 3 sides. It says that the Octovine regenerates if that doesn’t occur. I’m not sure if it goes back to full health or what because every map I have seen has either won or failed on time. 15 minutes is all the map gets for the Octovine fight.

Losing occurs if the Octovine isn’t defeated and an Exalted has to sacrifice itself to protect the city. I’ve been loving when the map yells out “His name was Robert Paulson.”, and the Exalted NPC’s conversations post-death are very well done. There is definitely an atmosphere of sadness in Tarir, the city central to Auric Basin where the Octovine fight occurs.

Win or lose, the Exalted open up their treasure room below the city. However, only a portion is opened upon a loss. A win results in far more treasure chests, bigger treasure chests, and more areas to explore, including a Hero Point that is only accessible upon a Octovine death.

Auric Basin Review

The meta of this map require more coordination than Verdant Brink, but I feel for a map-wide event it is very reasonable. There is plenty of time for heroic players to bolster failing sides. There is time for communication. And, I feel this is going to be put on “farm mode” like Silverwastes, which is perfectly fine. It is still challenging, but it is more challenging to the sum of parts rather than the parts individually.

For example, if the west side is failing it is apparent to all players of the meta that it is happening. There is usually plenty of time for each side to have a quick “need 2 players to head to west” kind of  deal. I’ve been part of a map that has killed the Octovine in 8 of the 15 minutes, and I’ve been part of a map where the Octovine was killed in the last 30 seconds. It seems very fair.

The outposts definitely ramp in difficulty compared to Verdant Brink. Most of them have champion bosses sprinkled throughout the outpost progression so a handful of players is going to be required for each outpost. The time to completion still seems fair. Maps that have concerted efforts towards the meta will usually complete each outpost.

The main thing that worries is me is what happens when the next land expansion occurs? I feel it is fair for a few players to bolster the map’s outposts and then ferry in players for the meta. I think that would be a viable thing for the life of the game. However, if the outposts are not scaling down, such as fighting two champion Stoneheads at once, for lower populations. I feel it will, by default, become a wasteland when a new expansion hits.

In all the maps, things will have to downscale more. Right now it might be fine with active populations. However, with raids, possible rebirthing WvW, etc. the active player populations are going to keep spreading. Auric Basin needs to be able to progress if fewer players are active, I feel.

Part 1, Fin

The first two maps of Heart of Thorns both have very good metas, and it is clear because I see groups forming all the time for “org VB” (organized Verdant Brink) and “AB meta” (Auric Basin’s Octovine event). Players that keep coming back can bring helpful experience to the maps, and both maps feel pretty rewarding for open world stuff. It’s not just gold per hour I’m talking about. There is a feeling of accomplishment the further the map meta progresses.

Unfortunately tomorrow I will talk about the other two maps in Heart of Thorns where things take a turn for the worse. I feel things can be fixed though “easily”*. We’ll see where that takes us tomorrow.

–Ravious

*by “easily”, I of course mean conceptually easily and have no realistic basis for ease regarding designer/computer resources.

8 thoughts on “[GW2] Four Map’s Metas, pt. 1”

  1. If you’re going to take a negative position on Dragon’s Stand I think you’ll be out of synch with the prevailing opinion, which seems to be that DS is about the best large-scale event ANet have done.

    Th best thing about all of the four metas, in my opinion, is that they are 100% ignorable. You can potter around all four maps doing your own thing for hour after hour and as far as you’d be aware you’d just be running into random dynamic events like we did back in 2012. Only because you are chipping in without even realizing it you get extra rewards. Actually, you get rewards for standing still in safe areas tabbed out web-browsing!

    I like Tangled Depths a lot. It’s a great zone for xp grinding. I’ve yet to see a meta complete but that’s of no matter to me. The only one of the four I actively head towards is the final 15 minute Octovine fight, because it’s short and fun. Other than that I rarely even stay in a single map for the duration of a full cycle.

    I do foresee a very major problem with the current design though. We currently have something like 15 “World Bosses” on a rolling schedule, including two supposedly challenging events (Teq and Tri-Wurm), two Core Tyria rolling full-map metas (DT/SW) and now four rolling full-map HoT metas. All the map metas last hours each.

    There has to be a finite limit to how many of these events the population can sustain. I’d guess we are close to that limit already. Of the current events, only the original World Bosses scale properly. ANet claim they are going to build on this structure within this game as their long-term commercial plan (no GW3). Imagine things five years from now with two more expansions and another 8-10 full-map, 1-2 hour metas. Not sustainable, is it?

    1. Yes, indeed. I almost wonder if they did something like only open Dragon’s Stand for a limited time/day if it would help later on down the road. Course, you’ll have to wait tomorrow to see what I have to say about that map. ;)

  2. The Tangled Depths boss event starts at even:30 Pacific time (which is also even hours server time), then the map resets 5-20 minutes later when it fails. My last few nights have been an attempt at that with a Tarir run afterwards to wash the taste of failure out of my mouth. I’m very curious about how you’ll suggest fixing it.

  3. Be it inadvertent, or purposeful design, it seems like the four HoT map metas are calibrated for different levels of organization and playstyles.

    Verdant Brink can be played in a loose disorganized casual fashion, similar to Dry Top, completing events as one stumbles across them. It’ll get you nice enough partial credit and makes for a bit more verisimilitude wandering around, rather than all-meta all-the-time.

    For purposeful coordination, Verdant Brink then requires very disciplined split groups, especially at night. You can zerg around in five zergs (which is already quite split, for zerg sizes) in the day, but each zerg has to fracture into at least three defence groups at night, probably more if people are running supplies, escorting, etc.

    Finally, the night champions are a nice touch for the whole partial to full credit scale. Think folks had previously conceptualized before the idea of optional champions, a less organized map might just take down one or two and feel satisfied, and people going for the full clear would have to be a lot more coordinated. Verdant Brink delivers.

    Auric Basin, on the other hand, is like a homage to the Marionette. Instead of splitting, this focuses attention on the big city in the center. The coordination required is a simultaneous kill, so communication and a bit more organization required than the loose style of VB.

    Yes, there are pre-events best done if a zerg splits into at least four groups, for each cardinal direction. The pre-events can also be done in the loose disorganized style of VB, so there’s still some content for the casual wanderer, or not at all, with a handicap of less uber armors to go around.

    In another nice touch, you can run from inside the city around to the other cardinal directions, allowing for reinforcing a side, which Marionette did not have. Finally, there’s partial credit for partial success.

  4. Dragon’s Stand is very much all meta, all the time. It’s super-focused, super-channeled. Hell, the map closes every two hours, so it’s kinda obvious that a player kinda needs to turn up at the start if they want to get anything beyond farming nodes or casual map exploration done (in which case, a halfway abandoned map would work.)

    It’s the concept that some players have discussed before during Vinewrath times, splitting zergs just enough to see one group on a lower level doing something, while another group is on another level doing something else. Dragon’s Stand encourages that to happen, somewhat explicitly in the case of masteries that block someone from doing one event or another.

    It challenges players to do a combination of the stuff they’ve been practicing in VB and AB. They need to split up and defend at certain times (pods, island vine growths), they need to come together at other times, and they have to coordinate simultaneous kills.

    I suspect the zerg circle strat was completely unintentional, but imo, it is fortunate that it developed, so that PUG maps can also successfully complete what is after all THE crowning meta-event of Heart of Thorns. (Now if only both camps can stop warring with each other over which is the “best” strat to use.)

    The downside is that with all this heft requirement to coordinate, Dragon’s Stand is open to a fair amount of griefing. People can (intentionally or otherwise) drag the champion into the pod teams and cause massive carnage, cause things to scale up and overwhelm a smaller split group, kill things at the wrong time and cause crucial timings to get screwed up.

    Tangled Depths is an interesting case, being the third map, The pre-events are a little more VB in style, they can be done separately and in a loose disorganized fashion over time, or in a coordinated purposeful manner.

    I have no idea if it was intentional, but the map meta itself is scaled to a Triple Trouble-esque difficulty.

    First you have to split up. Then you have to defend. (Defending is nearly always more challenging to coordinate than attacking. Most players are liable to lose focus and run off or be somewhere else than stay put.)

    The boss itself is supremely sensitive to scaling. Ditto the events to weaken the boss. Many a Nuhoch lane has failed because too many people run there, and each mushroom stomped doesn’t increment the bar enough. It’s so sensitive that there’s an NPC that specifically calls out that there are too many people in one lane (if a little after the fact.)

    The fight itself forces a lot of random improvisation and dancing between melee and range, due to the purple toxic clouds that (so far) seem to be dropped randomly on different people.

    The boss hp is at a point where you really need as much time in melee dpsing, with food and sharpening stones, as you can – which has led to the probably unintentional strategy of not breaking the bar at all, so that people can jump into melee and dps for a longer time. (Conversely, if you break the bar, you do get a short stun on the boss and increased damage if you melee during that time too. Except that some builds have to give up dps for more cc. Debate is ongoing as to which is more effective.)

    To add a little salt to the wound, there are a number of weird occurences in which no one is sure whether it’s a bug or intentional. Sometimes, Nuhoch lane doesn’t spawn sufficient mushrooms. Were people intended to clear the sporelings before they spawn, or do they just spawn in on a timer and this time the timer died?

    SCAR lane’s boss breaks his own breakbar periodically. You pretty much don’t have time to break his bar. Is it because of the thumpers? Is it intentional that one lane has that quirk?

    Rata lane’s gerent will occasionally charge himself into a Rata Novus flying sentry turret thing and be instantly vaporized. Pretty sure that one’s a bug. If only because the devs would never let it be this easy.

    And certain pre-events have a tendency to break here and there. Ogre and Scar have bugged out and been unable to complete, iirc.

    It’s my thought that this suggests insufficient testing and proper tuning on the TD meta, that a lot of this is unintentional. It is, however, interesting that this inability for a PUG map to complete gives rise to making it a fascination for organized groups to come together and keep banging their heads against it.

    Personally, I’d much rather this happen on the third and seemingly more unimportant map, than say, the final map, which everyone should be able to complete for the story and climatic ending.

    Contrast another possible way which they could have locked it by only opening Dragon’s Stand if the chak gerent defence succeeded, and the cannons blew open the way to DS. That would have led to a great deal more unhappiness, imo.

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